Polk Curbside Recycling Will Resume For Now, But Stay Alert For Cutbacks

Depending on where you live in unincorporated Polk County, your recycling cart may have been fuller than normal in recent months after the County Commission cut a deal with one its contractors that wasn’t doing a great job.

That will be over beginning July 1 and weekly curbside recycling collection will resume for now.

But don’t get too comfortable with the arrangement.

By Oct. 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, things may change.

There was some chatter at a recent commission meeting about the economics of curbside recycling. That involves the fact that it costs more to provide the service than it yields in revenue from the sale of recyclable materials.

Although aluminum cans peaked earlier this year at an unheard-of price of $1 a pound, it is less now, though still more than previous prices because of inflation.

There has been some tentative discussion of returning to using drop-off locations for recycling to reduce costs.

Drop-off locations—including one at the county landfill—were abandoned because they became a magnet for illegal dumping.

The problem is that curbside recycling has the same problem in the absence of any serious attempt to educate the public or enforce guidelines to reduce contamination as recommended in a years-old consultant report the County Commission spent money to fund but the staff pretty much ignored.

What recycling contamination means is that if there is too much stuff—plastic bags, unrecyclable plastic products, household garbage etc. etc. etc.—placed in recycling carts, the whole load goes into the landfill because it is not economically feasible to sort it to pull out truly recyclable materials.

Although some city recycling operations have attempted to address this issue, Polk County has not.

If curbside recycling in unincorporated Polk County goes away, don’t be surprised.

Another thing to watch is whether the County Commission reduces the garbage rate that was quietly increased last year based on a claim that pandemic-related garbage volume increases were putting a strain on the landfill even though it was also increasing landfill revenue.


Posted in Group Conservation Issues.